jtemplate.ru - free extensions for joomla

August 19, 2018 - True Food, True Drink

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Reading

One of the most difficult things to believe in the Catholic tradition is the belief that the bread and wine at every Eucharist is transformed into the body of blood of Jesus. The difficulty is seen in the statistics. Only 57 percent of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and the wine. Perhaps, we can find some consolation in the fact that we are not alone in our difficulty. Around the end of the 1st Century, John’s community dealt with the same issue. Last week we reflected on Jesus’ words, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). The people were quick to ask, “"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (Jn 6:52). 

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” That is the question I am dealing with today. How can the bread of life be body and blood? Is the bread and wine at Mass indeed the body and blood of Christ? How does mere bread and wine become the real presence of Christ?  

In my three points, I would like an offer the best explanation for our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  

1) Epiclesis. There is a part of the Mass that we call the “epiclesis.” Epiclesis literally means to call out or to invoke. In the context of the Mass it means to invoke God that to send the Holy Spirit to perform an action that is beyond human capacity, and which only the Holy Spirit can perform. In the Eucharist, the priest invokes upon God to send the Holy Spirit, so that the bread and wine may be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Epiclesis in the second Eucharist prayer reads: “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” This action is possible not with human hands but only with the intervention of the Holy Spirit. What we are asking, then, that our gifts may cease to be ordinary bread and wine and begin to be a holy reality, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

2) Transubstantiation. How does the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ? The biggest obstacle to believing that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ is simply this – that even after they are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, it still looks, feels, and tastes like bread and wine. Catholics take recourse to the doctrine of transubstantiation to explain how the bread and the wine, in reality become the body and blood of Christ. What is transubstantiation? 

In the 11thCentury, it was a man by the name of Berangarius of Tours (999 -1088), who led the Church to define transubstantiation. Berangarius was a brilliant philosopher and theologian. However, he was not a proponent of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. His rationale was philosophical. He argued that the human mind did not play games. Any object is what our mind says our eyes see. If we see bread and wine, then it must be bread and wine. He argued that if the bread and wine does indeed change into the body and blood of Christ, then our minds must see the body and blood of Christ. Since after the consecration we still see bread and wine, they are still bread and wine. He still said that Christ was present in the Eucharist but that it was a spiritual presence.  

The word transubstantiation was most probably first used by St. Hildebert of Lavardin (1055-1133). The doctrine of transubstantiation was defined by the 4thLateran Council (1215). How shall we understand transubstantiation? It is simple if we break down the word. Transwould mean change, and we identify the word substancein the substantiation. The word simply then means change of substance. 

How this applies to the Eucharist needs some explanation. We are referring here to the change of the substanceof the bread and wine into the substanceof the Body and Blood of Christ. Anything tangible has two elements: substance and its qualities. Let me give you an example. Take a piece of paper. The paper is the substance i.e. the thing the paper is made of. The paper could be white, or red, or pink, and the shape could be round or square, and it could be rough or smooth, and it could be thick or thin. The color, the shape, the quality and the thickness of the paper are its qualities. In our normal experience, we can change the qualities of paper (color, texture, size etc.) but not the substance (what the paper is made of). If I did, it would not paper any more. In the Eucharist, when the Holy Spirit comes down, the opposite happens. When the priest prays for the Spirit to come (Epiclesis), the substance of the bread and wine changes into the substance of the Body and blood of Christ, without changing their qualities. That is why the change is not visible. The bread is no more bread and the wine is no more wine but the Body and Blood of Christ, although the shape and color (qualities) remains the same. This principle is called trans-substantiation, because the substance has changed. We can believe that the bread and the wine, even if they look like bread and wine are the in reality the Body and the Blood of Jesus

3) “…Nothing will be Impossible for God.” Can we find any biblical foundations for such a miracle? Yes, we surely can. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce to her, “…You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus,” (Lk 1: 31) Mary asks the question, “How can this be?” (Lk 1:34). The angel replies, “… for nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:35). In other words, the Holy Spirit brought about the flesh and blood of Jesus into Mary’s womb. Something similar happens at mass. At mass the Holy Spirit transforms ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.  

Today’s first and second readings talk about Wisdom having spread a table where she has dressed the meat and mixed the wine. Wisdom says, “Let whoever is simple turn in here…” (Prov 9:1-6). Faith in the real presence of Christ calls for a certain simplicity. It calls for the simplicity of Mary, who believed that the angel’s words and the presence of the Holy Spirit will make the impossible possible. It calls for the kind of faith Mary had.  

As we celebrate today’s Eucharist, let us pray, that like Mary, we too be able to believe, “Nothing will be impossible for God.”  

- Fr. Satish Joseph